I’m freshly back from The Hotties, which is the annual Razzball award ceremony for the “hottest taeks” in fantasy baseball. With the sharp-toothed piranhavirus in full swing, Grey called for a “Mask-erade” ball, but the Eventbrite invitation auto-corrected it to a “masquerade” ball. Everybody showed up with the wrong parts of their face covered. I thought Grey would be upset but he seemed to take everything in stride, saying that he had been waiting for this day since “Eyes Wide Shut” was released. Is that a movie or a novel or a contact delivery service? Anyway, Grey started giggle-whispering “Fidelio!” at everybody. Hey, Grey, I get it. Fidel Castro liked baseball. Let’s get with the times!
I did manage to record Grey’s speech to all the writers and Instagram models who attended. Here’s the transcript if you want to read it:
“I’ll get right to the point: I’m proud to announce a new partnership between Razzball and the San Diego Padres. 2021 will be known as STAN DIEGO around here, and all hot taeks will involve Padres players. The top 10 pitchers? Lamet, Davis, Clevinger, and Paddack [audible hissing from the crowd]. The top 10 hitters? Tatis, Machado, Grisham, and Myers. Trevor Rosenthal is a top 30 pick. You will all write sleeper articles on Joey Lucchesi, Adrian Morejon, and yes, Eric Hosmer. [pause while Grey dodges thrown masks] Fear not, for STAN DIEGO comes with perks! You will all get a free hot dog with a purchase of an annual pass to Sea World, and you’ll get a personal tour of the tiger enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. Now, writers, start hyping Jake Cronenworth!”
At that point, all the people Grey whispered “Fidelio” to disappeared into Grey’s private grotto, which he named “50 Shades of Play” because of the underwater mini-golf course he installed. Myself? I was left standing in the foyer with a mysterious note that only said, “MacKenzie Gore, 2021 hot taek.”
September 19-27, 2020
If you’re still reading this weekly entry, it means either 1) you just love me and the Razzball writers so much that you’re showing up no matter what, or 2) you’re in your fantasy playoffs! It’s the last week of the MLB season, so that means fantasy championships are near. It’s been a pleasure having you along for the ride this year. If you like what I do with the weekly pitcher updates, then be sure to check out my weekly quarterback rankings and Razzbowl updates over on the football side of Razzball. If football isn’t your thing, then keep checking in on the off-season here on the baseball side, where I hope to write some more in-depth player profiles that combine fantasy sports and real-life journalism. When I’m not in fantasy sports / fan-fiction writing mode, I’m actually a historian of baseball. So, keep your eyes here on Razzball in the off-season, where I’ll be writing some fresh takes on players that you’ll want to stan yourself.
From a fantasy championship standpoint, I want to emphasize that you should do at least a cursory search for any news about pitchers before starting them this last week of the season. You know how in the before times, when September baseball rolled around and the playoff-bound teams often rested their aces in the last week? Yeah, it might be happening this week, too. You might hear last minute info about managers planning to give their stars 3-4 innings before turning it over to the bullpen or a long-reliever. You might hear about skipped starts. So, do yourself a favor and do your due diligence before using up a start on a player who’s going to get some rest in the last week.
Otherwise, follow the usual rules: 1) start your studs, 2) in redraft, drop dead-weight starters, 3) in dynasty, pick up hot pitchers to get a start on next years’ teams. As always, fantasy sports is a game of odds, and even the best pitchers have bad games and bad pitchers have good games. Stack the odds in your favor and throw good pitchers against bad teams as often as possible. If you’re in desperation mode, then start every pitcher you can — within reasonable odds — and see if you can make a miracle happen. Alec Mills might come out and throw a no-hitter.
News and Notes
Justin Verlander — I’m absolutely not taking a victory lap here over an injury, but I told you to stay away from Verlander. In all of the 2020 drafts, Verlander was the fourth starting pitcher taken off the board, usually going in the 2nd round. More surprisingly, during the late summer drafts at the National Fantasy Championships, Verlander actually picked up steam, being the third pitcher drafted off the board behind Gerrit Cole and Jacob DeGrom, good for an ADP of 13. And despite the well-documented core and arm injuries Verlander had throughout the before times in 2020, people kept drafting him for some reason. Now, Verlander is off for Tommy John surgery and will finish 2020 with a total of 1 game started and 6IP. He will miss the 2021 season and will return in 2022, when he is 39 years old. Now, if you look at the history of baseball, there are a lot of 39+ year old starting pitchers who had great success: Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and so on. However, if we look at just the past decade, there are two starting pitchers greater than 39 years old who had any degree of success: Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. Rich Hill and Hiroki Kuroda are also in that list, but Hill has been pretty bad since turning 39, and Kuroda stopped playing at 39. I want to give agency to Justin Verlander to finish his career strong, but there’s almost no precedent in the post-Statcast, post-Pitching Ninja world of older starting pitchers having successful years beyond 40. Why do I go on at length here? Because I’m fairly sure Verlander’s going to have a comeback campaign in 2022 to finish his career on his terms. Should you roster him in dynasty? Should you draft him in 2022? The stats say Verlander will not be an effective fantasy baseball starting pitcher anymore. So, here we say goodbye to a legend. Regardless of trash can banging, Verlander’s career stats show that he’s a Hall of Famer. Here’s to hoping he’s got a shrine in the Hall before 2030.
Brady Singer — Singer has been hot over his past two starts, racking up 2 wins in 14IP with 16K and 3BB and a sterling ERA of zilch. He hasn’t done much to change his approach, other than basically nixing his changeup and throwing just his fastball and slider. What has changed the most at the end of the season is that he’s facing easier teams: the past two games, he faced Cleveland and Detroit, each of which are average-to-below average hitting teams. Singer’s previous six starts came against the White Sox (a top five hitting team by most metrics), the Twins, and the Cubs (the last two being near the top ten in league hitting). In those six starts, Singer put up a 6.23 ERA and allowed 1.78 HR/9 while K’ing a meager 7.71 batters per nine. Singer has a two start week to close out the season, against the Cardinals and the Tigers. With each of those teams hitting near the bottom third of the MLB ranks, Singer might be a nice streamer for your championship run.
Dakota Hudson — Last week I told you to pick up Hudson for your championship run. Let’s see how he’s doing? [Googles] [Gets distracted by Spotify ad] [Goes to make coffee] [Thinks about Donkey Teeth dressed as Borat in a swimsuit] [Remembers to write about Dakota Hudson] AW CRAP. Hudson’s got a “forearm strain” after leaving his last start with “elbow soreness.” Of course, he’s on the IL. If you’ve been around baseball long enough, you know that those terms — forearm strain, etc.– are not good, and too often they lead to Tommy John surgery. Looking at his velocity, Hudson did lose nearly 3MPH on his fastball between the beginning of the season and his last start, so something is capital-W Wrong. Hudson had just started turning around his WHIP-happy pitching life and had been K’ing a ton of batters while limiting walks. Hopefully the pitching minds on the Cardinals staff will get Hudson rehabbed or surgerized quickly, so he can keep his young and promising career on track.
Jaime Barria — Holy crow Barria flew under the radar. He’s been a true starter for 4 games, and he’s averaged 5IP pitched per outing, which is why he’s taken only 1 Win on 2020. Over his last two games, he’s taken a 3.09 ERA (2.25FIP) and paired it with a near 8K/9, which is on track with his career numbers. What’s not on track with his career numbers? That would be HR/9. In 120IP in 2019 across MLB and AAA, Barria served up batting practice for hitters to the tune of about a 2.7HR/9. In 30IP this year, he’s allowed only 2HR, both of which occurred on September 6 against Houston. Barria is scheduled for one more start this year, against STAN DIEGO, so I really, really wouldn’t recommend putting Barria on your SP roster in that matchup. If you’re in DFS, it might not be a bad idea to stack Padres against Mr. 2.7HR/9 to see what results you get. However, you might want to keep Barria on your radar in dynasty leagues.
J.A. Happ — Belieber or not, Happ is the same age as Verlander. Amazing how careers go in different trajectories, eh? Happ spent most of 2020 being, well, hapless on the mound. In his first 5 starts, Happ walked nearly as many as he K’d and had a 5.91 FIP. Over his last three starts, though? a 1.40ERA/2.36FIP, a stunning 24:2 K/BB, and 1W. As a fastball/sinker/slider/changeup technician, Happ increased the horizontal movement on his fastball and sinker by about an inch over the last month. I told you one inch mattered! He’s got one start left, albeit it’s against Toronto in Sahlen Field. He did that same matchup on September 8 and K’d 10 Buffalo Blue Jays over 6.1 innings but was let down by an anemic Yankees lineup. The next day, the Yankees started a 10-game winning streak, with the median number of runs scored being about 10. You know how many runs the Yankees scored in Happ’s start on that streak? 3. So! You’re in the championships for a reason. Time to think about starting Happ in Buffalo. But don’t think about Happ in dynasty. See Verlander’s blurb above about the success of older pitchers in the post-Statcast, post-Pitching Ninja era.
Michael Pineda — JKJ wants you all to think about Pineda as a streamer, and I can’t blame him. I also don’t quite believe him. Pineda has a long track record of mediocrity but seems to be very refreshed after his suspension for performance enhancing substances. With a career HR/9 average near 1.5, Pineda has gone 4 starts without giving up a dong, and his FIP is a darling 1.99. Over his last two starts, he’s only made it 4.2 and 5 innings respectively, so he’s not a lock for wins. However, he’s worth a consideration in deep leagues, and given his seeming turn-around from career averages, he might be worth a dynasty grab. He’s only 31!
Kwang Hyun Kim — Kim suffered a kidney blockage a few weeks back, which kind of derailed his debut 2020 season. He hasn’t thrilled fantasy owners with strikeouts (5.56 K/9), but he’s been really, really good at limiting HR and ER. Then, on Saturday he went against the lost Pirates, who launched 2 HR and put 4 runs on the board in 5IP. The good news, is that the Saturday outing was by far Kim’s worst 2020 outing. The bad news is that it was the Pirates. Kim gets the Brewers in his last start of the year. If you haven’t been following baseball closely, the Brewers were nearly no-hit by Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda over one weekend, and then were no-hit by Mr. 66-MPH curveball Alec Mills. Kim will be a smart play to lower your ERA and probably get a W in the championship week.
I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week: I have confidence only in like the top 30 starters on this list. Pitchers 30-59 are sort of confident, and everybody else is a dart throw. Everybody who isn’t on the list? Yeah, dart throw. Let’s put that another way: there are about 30 pitchers I would actually be excited to start this week. Everybody else? Jumanji! That means everything you think you know turns into a tragi-comedy of lost suburbanites traveling through the wilderness.
FIP=Fielding Independent Pitching; SwSt%=Swinging Strike %; EV=Batted Ball Exit Velocity; Hard Hit%=percent in hard hit batted balls. All data represents the past three weeks. Data supplied by Fangraphs and Razzball’s Player Rater, and compiled by yours truly.
|59||Lance McCullers Jr.||2.8||13.2||87.7||25|